April 18, 2024

Dolby Atmos is probably the most immersive model of encompass sound you may get at house. Although it took a while to catch on, the format is now in every single place, from film theaters to Extremely HD Blu-ray discs, in addition to the world’s streaming companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Disney+.

However what, precisely, is Dolby Atmos? How is it totally different from different kinds of encompass sound? And maybe most significantly: In the event you determine you wish to expertise Atmos at house, how will you ensure that’s precisely what you’re getting? Dolby Atmos might be superior, however getting it’s (sadly) a bit extra difficult than merely shopping for a TV or a soundbar with the Dolby Atmos emblem on the field.

Simply wish to know what all of the Dolby Atmos fuss is about? We obtained you lined. Wish to turn into a Dolby Atmos professional? This information will get you there, with as little jargon as attainable.

How one can use this information

We’ve organized this final information to Dolby Atmos into three components.

Half 1 covers the fundamentals. In the event you simply wish to know what Dolby Atmos is and why you must care, it will cowl a number of key ideas. The subsequent time Dolby Atmos comes up in dialog, you’ll know precisely what people are speaking about.

Half 2 will get a little bit deeper. It’s for people who find themselves significantly pondering of how they’ll get a Dolby Atmos expertise at house, with explanations concerning the gear you’ll want and tips on how to decipher a number of the jargon that will get thrown round, like discrete versus digital channels, and what numbers like 7.2.4 imply.

Half 3 is devoted to navigating the Dolby Atmos ecosystem to be sure you’re truly getting the Dolby Atmos sound you’ve invested in. As with so many issues in our technological world, it’s not fairly as easy correctly. That’s why we’ll get into the sneaky gotchas that may come between you and a real Dolby Atmos expertise.

Half 1: what’s Dolby Atmos?

Image showing Dolby Atmos 3D sound.
Dolby

Conventional encompass sound actually surrounds you. The sound comes from in entrance, beside, and generally behind you, too. Dolby Atmos takes this to the following logical step, with sound that comes from above. As an alternative of sitting in a hoop of sound, with issues coming at you in a reasonably flat, directional method, you’re sitting below a dome of sound.

One other attribute of Dolby Atmos that makes it so immersive — so “3D” as many individuals consult with it — is its skill to maneuver particular person sounds round inside that dome. Or precisely the best way sounds work in the actual world. You get the sense of movement, not simply directionality.

Don’t fear, you don’t essentially must mount audio system to your ceiling to get this impact. (Although doing so will sound unimaginable.) Because of the know-how that makes Dolby Atmos attainable, there are many methods to expertise Dolby Atmos that don’t contain placing holes in drywall or spending 1000’s of {dollars}, and we’ll cowl many of those choices in a second.

Earlier than we do, let’s cowl a key idea that may enable you to perceive how Dolby Atmos truly works. Belief me, after we get a little bit deeper, you’ll be glad we began right here.

Metadata — Dolby Atmos’ secret sauce

At a deeply technical stage, Dolby Atmos isn’t truly a soundtrack in any respect. It’s metadata (further details about the soundtrack) that’s utilized by suitable audio gear to manage which audio system are reproducing sure sounds.

Within the studio, audio engineers utilizing Dolby Atmos mixing know-how are in a position to deal with particular person sounds as “objects,” which may then be moved independently inside that dome of sound. The basic instance is the helicopter that flies in from a location behind your proper shoulder, then hovers in place overhead for a number of seconds earlier than screeching off to someplace simply to the left of your TV display.

What’s so intelligent about Atmos is that the motion of the helicopter is represented as a set of directions (the metadata), not embedded straight into the soundtrack.

A Dolby Atmos sound system can learn that metadata and determine how finest to ship the helicopter’s actions to your out there audio system, in the end making a sound expertise that’s way more immersive than earlier encompass sound applied sciences.

And what about Dolby Atmos Music?

Sonos Era 300, beside a turntable.
The Sonos Period 300 is a Dolby Atmos Music speaker. Sonos

Dolby Atmos Music does for music what Dolby Atmos does for motion pictures and there are actually loads of methods to expertise it, from Dolby Atmos-capable soundbars and audio system, just like the Sonos Arc and Sonos Period 300, to the wired and wi-fi headphones you utilize together with your smartphone. It’s spectacular whenever you hear it, nevertheless it has totally different necessities than Dolby Atmos for motion pictures and TV exhibits, so take a look at our full Dolby Atmos Music explainer to see in case your present gear helps it.

Half 2: channels, audio system, and equipment galore

How Dolby Atmos works and what it’s Hanif Jackson / Digital Tendencies

Able to expertise Dolby Atmos at house? Right here’s what you must know before you purchase.

Dolby Atmos: the gear you want

At a minimal, you want three issues to attain Atmos nirvana.

  • Supply: The content material itself — whether or not it’s a film or music — must be carried out in Dolby Atmos.
  • Decoding system: Whether or not it’s a TV, a streaming system, or a stereo receiver, the gear you’re utilizing has to have the ability to decode that Dolby Atmos supply.
  • Sound system: Generally unbiased of the system that’s doing the decoding (or generally they’re a part of the identical {hardware}), you’ll want a sound system that really helps Dolby Atmos schemes. In different phrases, a easy stereo pair of audio system received’t get it carried out.

Dolby Atmos motion pictures, exhibits, and music

Photo of Disney+ interface showing the info screen from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, featuring Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos logos.
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Sources for Dolby Atmos content material are actually quite common. You’ll discover Atmos on Blu-ray discs and video streaming companies like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and lots of others. For Dolby Atmos Music, your finest bets are music streaming companies like Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music.

Not all titles include Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Older motion pictures sometimes don’t have them until they’ve been lately remastered, just like the Star Wars franchise on Disney+, nevertheless it’s quite common on new releases, particularly Hollywood blockbusters. One other factor to remember: some streaming companies like Netflix, solely supply Dolby Atmos as an choice whenever you pay for his or her costliest subscription tier.

Dolby Atmos playback units

Apple TV 4K hardware with remote and retail box.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Tendencies

Just about all Blu-ray gamers can decode Dolby Atmos from Blu-ray discs. However simply to make certain, you might wish to examine your participant’s specs. With streaming units like Apple TV, Chromecast with Google TV, and so forth., it’s way more of a blended bag. The entire top-end units from the most important producers help Dolby Atmos, however a number of the lower-priced fashions will, too. Once more, examine the specs to make certain.

There’s an excellent probability your good TV is also a Dolby Atmos playback system. Whether it is, you’ll be capable to hear Dolby Atmos from its built-in audio system. (Once more, if the content material helps it.) However since TV audio system aren’t precisely the most effective for large, daring, and immersive audio, you’ll wish to make sure that the TV may also cross Dolby Atmos via to an exterior system by way of its HDMI ARC/eARC port. Undecided what meaning? We’ll focus on passthrough extra in Half 3.

Dolby Atmos sound methods

A close up of the Vizio M-Series Elevate Soundbar (M512E-K6) on a media stand.
Riley Younger / Digital Tendencies

That is the a part of the Dolby Atmos equation the place you get the best vary of drugs, to not point out ranges of funding. As I mentioned earlier, your TV could already comprise a Dolby Atmos sound system. However the odds are good that even when it does, you’ll need one thing higher.

The 2 important sorts of Dolby Atmos sound methods are AV receiver-based with wired audio system, and Dolby Atmos soundbars, which can additionally embrace further wired or wi-fi audio system.

AV receiver component-based methods are thought of the gold commonplace for Dolby Atmos. They provide the most management over the sound as a result of they allow you to decide every element and place every speaker precisely the place you need it to be. In the event you already personal a 5.1 or 7.1 AV receiver-based wired encompass sound system, you may hold all your current audio system, after which improve your system with a Dolby Atmos AV receiver and a few further height-effect audio system. (Which might add one other decimal place to lead to a 7.1.x or 5.1.x scheme.) Or, your current AV receiver would possibly already be Dolby Atmos succesful, during which case you solely want so as to add height-effect audio system.

The draw back of AV receiver methods — particularly in the event you’ve by no means owned one — is that they are usually costly, difficult to put in, and never precisely user-friendly when making an attempt to regulate settings.

Because of this Dolby Atmos soundbars are by far the preferred solution to improve. They’re easy to arrange, sometimes price far lower than AV receiver-based house theater methods, and a few fashions allow you to add further audio system or subwoofers as your wants (and your price range) develop.

Within the early days of Dolby Atmos soundbars, AV receiver methods held a giant lead by way of sound high quality and immersion. Extra lately, nonetheless, we’ve seen Atmos soundbar methods that will fulfill all however probably the most demanding audio and cinephiles, although not and not using a appreciable funding, ahem, Nakamichi Dragon.

You may additionally run into the time period Dolby Atmos FlexConnect. This can be a new know-how created by Dolby that lets choose Dolby Atmos-equipped TVs enhance their built-in sound methods by sending sound to further wi-fi audio system with out the necessity for a soundbar, an AV receiver, and even an HDMI cable.

We now have but to strive one among these methods, so we will’t touch upon how they carry out in comparison with soundbars or house theater methods, nevertheless it’s a very good guess they’ll nonetheless be higher than your TV’s built-in audio system alone.

What about headphones?

Person listening to Apple AirPods Max in spatial audio.
Apple

OK, so we’ve lined what it’s essential to get Dolby Atmos sound out of your TV audio system, a soundbar, or a house theater speaker system, however there’s yet one more choice: Headphones.

It’s attainable to get Dolby Atmos for each motion pictures and music by way of any set of wired or wi-fi headphones, however you’ll want some particular gear to make it occur.

Dolby Atmos for motion pictures by way of headphones

When you’ve got an Apple TV 4K, you may join any set of Bluetooth headphones, and the streaming system will create a virtualized Dolby Atmos expertise so long as you’re watching a film with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. However in the event you personal a pair of Apple’s AirPods Professional, AirPods third-generation, or AirPods Max, the Apple TV can even allow head-tracking spatial audio — an much more immersive model of Dolby Atmos (and multichannel encompass) that simulates what it’s wish to pay attention with none headphones in any respect. It’s fairly magical.

You may get the identical expertise (with out the pinnacle monitoring) on any cell phone or pill that helps Dolby Atmos.

Dolby Atmos Music by way of headphones

In the event you subscribe to Apple Music, Tidal HiFi, or Amazon Music, you may hear Dolby Atmos Music by way of your headphones — offered that these companies have printed a model of their apps which are suitable together with your telephone, and also you’ve chosen a Dolby Atmos Music model of the music you wish to hear. Not all songs can be found in Dolby Atmos. (Once more, that goes again to the entire supply/system/system factor from earlier.)

Dolby Atmos: what are all of these numbers for?

A label on the bottom of a Vizio Dolby Atmos soundbar.
A label describing the channels supported by a Vizio Dolby Atmos soundbar. Vizio

Encompass sound soundtracks and sound methods are outlined by channels. A channel is a singular set of sounds, sometimes assigned to a single speaker. Once you see encompass sound described as Dolby 5.1, meaning the soundtrack contains 5 channels of encompass sound (entrance left, entrance proper, middle, encompass left, and encompass proper) plus one channel devoted to low-frequency results — normally dealt with by a subwoofer.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks add the lacking overhead parts that provide the dome of sound. However right here’s the place it could possibly get a bit complicated.

Dolby Atmos is scalable. So long as your AV receiver or soundbar is Dolby Atmos-compatible, it should do its finest to ship a Dolby Atmos expertise no matter whether or not it has two audio system or two dozen audio system.  That’s why Dolby Atmos soundtracks don’t use the standard 5.1 (or 7.1 or 9.1) designations. They’re simply labeled as Dolby Atmos.

So why are some Dolby Atmos sound methods marketed with designations like 5.1.4 and even 11.4.6? That is an try on the a part of the producer to provide you a way of the system’s functionality — how immersive it should sound whenever you use it. The truth is, your Dolby Atmos expertise will rely largely on the variety of drivers (the person parts that produce sound) and the variety of audio system (the bodily bins containing the drivers) in your sound system.

We’ll focus on the specifics within the subsequent part. However for now, right here’s a primer on what these numbers are presupposed to characterize.

A diagram of a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos speaker system.
A diagram of speaker placements inside a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos sound system. Dolby Labs

The primary two numbers that describe a Dolby Atmos sound system are the identical as a conventional encompass system — the primary quantity connotes the horizontally organized channels and the second quantity is the low-frequency channel. Atmos provides a 3rd quantity, which represents the “peak” channels — the channels that give us that overhead dome of sound impact.

There are tons of combos, however listed here are some examples to provide you a way of what we’re speaking about:

  • 3.1.2 — entrance left, entrance proper, and middle channels, plus a subwoofer, and left and proper peak channels
  • 5.1.4 — entrance left/proper, middle, encompass left/proper, a sub, and two units of peak channels (entrance peak left/proper and rear peak left/proper)
  • 9.1.6 — entrance left/proper, middle, huge left/proper, encompass left/proper, rear left/proper, a sub, and three units of peak channels (entrance peak left/proper, center peak left/proper, and rear peak left/proper)

You may additionally see methods that use a quantity higher than 1 to characterize the low-frequency subwoofer channel e.g. 9.2.4 and even 9.4.4. This implies the producer has determined to incorporate a number of subwoofers, for higher administration (and energy) of low frequencies. However as a result of Atmos solely has one low-frequency channel, every of those subwoofers will get the identical sign.

How far are you able to go? Dolby Atmos helps as much as 64 speaker areas, so the sky is sort of the restrict.

This triple-digit system represents a best-case situation. In different phrases, as within the diagram above, there ought to be one bodily speaker for each channel. Nevertheless, as a result of some Dolby Atmos methods use virtualization, there might be far fewer bodily audio system than channels, and this will imply dramatically totally different outcomes (see the following part).

It’s additionally value noting that your chosen system must be of the best scope, scale, and energy in your room, in any other case, you could possibly find yourself with a giant bill and a system that doesn’t sound pretty much as good because it might.

Dolby Atmos: discrete and digital channels

Klipsch Reference Premiere Dolby Atmos Lifestyle 5 speaker.
A Klipsch floor-standing speaker with a Klipsch Dolby Atmos-enabled peak speaker sitting on high. Klipsch

There are two ways in which a Dolby Atmos system can ship sound channels: discretely, and just about.

Discrete channels imply that there’s a direct supply of sound for every channel. On this excellent world, it’s one speaker for every channel, together with the best variety of ceiling audio system for the peak channels. However making that occur requires a Dolby Atmos AV receiver, numerous speaker wire, and doubtless some drywall chopping and restore, so a second discrete choice exists: Dolby Atmos-enabled audio system.

Dolby Atmos-enabled audio system obtain their peak channels by bouncing pontificate your ceiling towards you rather than projecting it straight down at you.

Extra on Dolby Atmos

AV receiver house owners can purchase full-size tower or bookshelf audio system which have these further, angled drivers built-in, or you may add simply the angled driver as its personal speaker, which you’d place on high of your current audio system.

You’ll be able to even combine and match. Maybe you initially put in two ceiling audio system however you now need a second set of peak channels, and also you don’t wish to lower new holes in your drywall. You would add Dolby Atmos-enabled audio system as a substitute, (assuming your AV receiver is ready to help 4 or extra peak channels).

The form of your room and the peak and angles of your ceiling all play a task in figuring out the best resolution.

Soundbars can have the equal of Dolby Atmos-enabled audio system too, however we refer to those as “up-firing” drivers, which might be situated in the primary soundbar in addition to in encompass audio system in case your soundbar has these.

Digital channels imply that the sound system is utilizing software program generally known as digital sign processing (DSP) to create “phantom audio system” in your room instead of actual audio system. Utilizing the rules of psychoacoustics, it’s attainable as an illustration, for 2 audio system within the entrance of your room to simulate an extra two encompass audio system. It’s even attainable to virtualize peak channels, although this impact is normally much less convincing than digital encompass channels.

These virtualized channels can’t absolutely change actual audio system, however we’ve been shocked at simply how convincing some virtualized methods might be. Bose, Sennheiser, and Sony every have created Dolby Atmos soundbars that virtualize as much as six channels, and so they sound superb.

Nevertheless, we have to level out a serious caveat with virtualization. There isn’t a common commonplace for the way virtualization is achieved. This could result in wildly totally different outcomes between manufacturers and fashions. Furthermore, from a advertising and marketing standpoint, Dolby Labs doesn’t distinguish between Dolby Atmos sound methods.

Each system that helps Dolby Atmos know-how receives the Dolby Atmos label, no matter how nicely it achieves Atmos’ promise of 3D immersion.  It’s this case that has led us to query whether or not the Dolby Atmos label on a product has a direct relationship to a selected sound expertise, or whether or not it’s merely a model at this level.

For example, within the photographs above are two Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbars. Each declare to breed 7.1.4-channel sound, however the Ambeo Soundbar Plus has 9 drivers to work with, whereas the Ambeo Soundbar Mini solely has six. As you would possibly anticipate, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus delivers a way more immersive efficiency (it additionally prices significantly extra).

As steerage, we propose you do two issues earlier than shopping for. First, as all the time: Learn the critiques. Consultants who’ve had an opportunity to listen to many alternative methods in motion will be capable to inform you how a given mannequin compares to its friends. Second: It’s not a rule, however typically talking the higher the variety of particular person drivers in a soundbar, the higher the virtualization impact will likely be. It’s easy physics — two forward-facing drivers can’t create as complicated a sound subject as 5 or extra drivers, every separated by a number of inches of area, and positioned at totally different angles to the listening space.

Half 3: Are you truly getting Dolby Atmos sound?

You’ve carried out all of your homework. You’ve obtained a supply of Atmos content material that’s being performed by an Atmos-capable system and it’s all being routed via a Dolby Atmos sound system. So why doesn’t it sound such as you’re truly getting Dolby Atmos?

To resolve this vexing downside, there are a number of extra ideas we have to cowl.

Dolby Atmos: lossy and lossless audio

Dolby Atmos metadata piggybacks on a conventional encompass sound sign. Because of this Atmos is backward suitable with non-Atmos sound methods — the non-Atmos system doesn’t know what to do with the metadata, so it ignores it and simply performs the standard encompass portion that it acknowledges.

There are two flavors of Dolby encompass sound that may let Atmos metadata tag alongside for the journey:

  • Dolby TrueHD
  • Dolby Digital Plus

Dolby TrueHD is a lossless, high-resolution, multichannel encompass sound format. By way of house theater sound, it’s the gold commonplace. Nevertheless, TrueHD’s huge bandwidth necessities make it an impractical selection for streaming companies, so, in the intervening time, it’s just about restricted to Blu-rays and Extremely HD 4K Blu-rays.

Dolby Digital Plus can carry the identical content material as TrueHD, nevertheless it makes use of a lossy, lower-bandwidth format making it the de facto commonplace for Dolby Atmos on all streaming companies. The scale distinction between the 2 codecs by way of bitrate is big. A Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack with Dolby Atmos metadata sometimes makes use of between 384 and 768 kbps of bandwidth. The identical content material in TrueHD makes use of a median of 6,000 kbps, however can soar as excessive as 18,000 kbps as a result of there’s no higher restrict on TrueHD’s bitrate.

Evidently, Dolby Atmos over Dolby Digital Plus would be the means most individuals expertise Atmos. For the Atmos Music followers on the market, it’s the identical story — Atmos Music on Blu-ray will probably use TrueHD, whereas streaming companies will use Dolby Digital Plus. The one exception (if yow will discover them) is hi-res music obtain websites.

Dolby Atmos: HDMI-only

HDMI and optical ports on the back of a soundbar.

Until you might be happy together with your TV’s inside audio system (otherwise you determine to check out the Dolby Atmos FlexConnect know-how we talked about briefly earlier), HDMI is a requirement for Dolby Atmos. Whether or not your Dolby Atmos content material is coming from a Blu-ray disc, a streaming field, or perhaps a built-in app in your TV, the one solution to get that sign to your AV receiver or soundbar is by way of HDMI. Each Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus variations of Atmos include extra information than a digital optical connection can deal with.

Nevertheless, there are three attainable HDMI paths that Dolby Atmos can take to get to your sound system, every with a barely totally different set of concerns:

  1. Direct HDMI out of your supply system to your sound system
  2. Direct HDMI out of your TV to your sound system
  3. Oblique HDMI out of your supply system by way of your TV to your sound system

Direct HDMI out of your supply system to your sound system

Dolby Atmos diagram: source device to sound system to TV.
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

In the event you use a Dolby Atmos AV receiver, you’ll probably join your supply system (Blu-ray participant, streaming media participant, and so forth.) on to the AV receiver after which let the receiver ship the video portion of the sign to your TV. In case your Dolby Atmos soundbar has an HDMI video enter (many don’t), you need to use your soundbar the identical means. These connections not solely assure the most effective audio high quality, however they’re the one solution to get Dolby Atmos sound in case your TV isn’t Dolby Atmos suitable. These connections work with each Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus.

Direct HDMI out of your TV to your sound system

Dolby Atmos diagram: TV to sound system.
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

In case your good TV is Dolby Atmos suitable, you don’t have to make use of every other third-party supply units, so long as your good TV’s apps are additionally Dolby Atmos-capable. On this case, you’ll use your TV’s HDMI ARC/eARC port to connect with your AV receiver or soundbar’s HDMI ARC/eARC port by way of an HDMI cable. Since just about all your Dolby Atmos content material will likely be streamed and thus in Dolby Digital Plus, it received’t matter in case your TV solely has HDMI ARC or the newer HDMI eARC — Dolby Atmos with Dolby Digital Plus will work with each. Nevertheless …

Oblique HDMI out of your supply system by way of your TV to your sound system

Dolby Atmos diagram: source device to TV to sound system.
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

If you wish to use a supply system however you don’t personal an AV receiver or your soundbar doesn’t have any HDMI video inputs, you’ll want to make use of your TV as a passthrough that may transmit Dolby Atmos from the supply system to your soundbar — and this the place your TV’s HDMI port model issues.

Virtually all new TVs from 2020 and onward have HDMI eARC. In case your TV has eARC, it should cross via any model of Dolby Atmos to your soundbar.

Dolby Atmos succesful TVs that solely have HDMI ARC ought to be capable to cross via Dolby Digital Plus to your soundbar, however they received’t be capable to cross via Dolby TrueHD. Very similar to an optical connection can’t deal with the bandwidth of Dolby Digital Plus, HDMI ARC can’t deal with TrueHD. In case your supply materials is simply out there in Dolby TrueHD, you might not get any sound in any respect. This could additionally have an effect on Dolby Atmos from the Apple TV 4K, although it doesn’t use Dolby TrueHD.

Nevertheless, some Dolby Atmos TVs with HDMI ARC are in a position to downconvert Dolby TrueHD to Dolby Digital Plus, whereas preserving Dolby Atmos metadata. In case your TV can do that, you’ll nonetheless get Dolby Atmos to your soundbar, even when your supply content material was in TrueHD.

In the event you’re utilizing an optical cable to attach your TV to your soundbar or your AV receiver, these indicators will likely be transformed into an easier encompass format, like Dolby Digital 5.1, earlier than they get transmitted. The sound you hear will nonetheless be actually good, nevertheless it received’t be Atmos.

Information, apps, and {hardware}

TV screen showing Dolby Atmos audio settings for an Nvidia Shield 2019.
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

We’ve mentioned it earlier than, nevertheless it’s value repeating: for Dolby Atmos to work, each ingredient in your house theater setup has to help Atmos. In different phrases:

  • The film you’re enjoying — whether or not it’s bodily, downloaded, or streamed — must be encoded with Dolby Atmos (by way of Dolby TrueHD or Dolby Digital Plus).
  • The {hardware} you’re enjoying it on has to have the ability to decode Dolby Atmos. If it could possibly’t, it wants to have the ability to cross it alongside to a Dolby Atmos-capable sound system with out altering it. This is called “passthrough.”
  • The app you’re utilizing — e.g. Plex, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and so forth. — have to be able to delivering Dolby Atmos information to your playback system.
  • And, in fact, your TV, AV receiver, or soundbar have to be Dolby Atmos suitable, if that’s the system you’re utilizing to take heed to audio.

And simply to make life extra difficult, simply because your app of selection helps Dolby Atmos on some units, that doesn’t imply it essentially helps it on all units. As an example: Plex working on an Nvidia Defend TV can cross via Atmos over Dolby TrueHD, and over Dolby Digital Plus, however Plex on an Apple TV 4K will solely deal with Atmos over Dolby Digital Plus, and Plex on a fourth-generation Apple TV can’t cross via Dolby Atmos in any respect.

Diagram showing how to get Dolby Atmos sound from your devices.
Simon Cohen/Digital Tendencies and Nate Barrett/Digital Tendencies

In the event you’re enjoying an Atmos-encoded Extremely HD Blu-ray on an Extremely HD Blu-ray participant that’s linked to an Atmos-capable TV, soundbar, or AV receiver by way of HDMI, we will just about assure you’re getting the total Dolby Atmos expertise. We are able to’t say the identical about another system combos.

Listed below are a number of examples the place you’ll not get Dolby Atmos sound:

  • Taking part in an Atmos-encoded Netflix film on an Apple TV HD (4th gen, non-4K) linked to an Atmos-capable AV receiver. On this situation, the Apple TV is the weakest hyperlink: It doesn’t help Dolby Atmos. You’ll be restricted to five.1 Dolby Digital Plus encompass sound.
  • Taking part in any Dolby Atmos-encoded content material on a Roku Streaming Stick+ that’s hooked up to a Dolby Atmos succesful TV, with an Atmos soundbar linked by way of optical cable. The impediment right here is the optical connection to the soundbar. You’ve obtained Atmos content material on a tool that may help Atmos, on a TV that may cross via Atmos, however since you’re utilizing an optical cable as a substitute of HDMI ARC/eARC, the TV has to down-convert the audio to Dolby Digital 5.1 (in any other case generally known as AC-3), as a result of optical connections can not deal with the upper bandwidth necessities of Dolby Digital Plus.
  • Utilizing the built-in Plex shopper on an LG OLED TV to play a film encoded with Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos, with an Atmos soundbar linked by way of HDMI ARC. This can be a actually irritating one — all the sources and parts are Atmos-capable, however as a result of the Plex shopper on the LG TV isn’t but optimized to deal with TrueHD/Atmos, it down-converts the audio to Dolby 5.1 — although each the TV itself and the linked soundbar might have simply dealt with the TrueHD/Atmos monitor.

How do I do know if I’m getting Dolby Atmos?

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Mini - Dolby Atmos indicator.
Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

As a result of Dolby Atmos methods can upmix any encompass sound indicators they get, it could possibly generally be tough to know in the event you’re getting true Dolby Atmos or upmixed two-channel, 5.1 or 7.1 encompass sound. From an audible standpoint, in the event you’re getting Atmos, you must be capable to detect sounds as they seem to maneuver from one space of the room to a different. Rainfall, bullet ricochets, and whizzing vehicles are all good candidates for this.

They received’t simply transfer from entrance to again or aspect to aspect; they need to additionally often sound as if they’re coming from overhead, or someplace above the display.

Nonetheless not sure? The one surefire solution to affirm Dolby Atmos is working is to examine the knowledge panel on the entrance of your AV receiver or your soundbar (if it has one, or maybe an LED indicator, or an on-screen show). It ought to show the type of audio sign it’s at present working with. If the show doesn’t particularly say “Atmos” or “Dolby Atmos,” then the chances are that you just’re not getting Atmos. Checking the show is probably going simpler than queuing up the best soundtrack for a rainfall or ricochet sound examine.

Some Atmos soundbars, just like the Sonos Arc, Bose Sensible Soundbar 900, and LG S95QR, will present you the audio sign inside their respective cellular apps for iOS and Android.

Another factor

We now have one final troubleshooting trick up our sleeves for these of you who nonetheless can’t get Atmos to seem regardless of exhausting all of the protocols talked about above. TVs and streaming units have totally different settings for his or her digital audio outputs. More often than not, they’re set to “auto” by default, which is what you need.

However generally, they find yourself in PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) mode, which strips out Dolby Atmos metadata. Maybe you will have troubleshot your system each means you know the way and nonetheless can’t decide up Dolby Atmos. In that case, we suggest you navigate its settings to see if it’s in PCM mode. If it’s set to PCM, change it to Auto or Bitstream.

There may be a couple of settings menu. On the PlayStation 4, if you wish to play Blu-ray discs with Dolby Atmos, it’s essential to affirm that each the primary system audio settings and the audio settings in your Blu-ray disc itself are set to Bitstream. Not all setups are suitable with Dolby Atmos, so if this doesn’t work both, you may need an incompatible system.

Attaining correct Dolby Atmos requires a little bit of diligence and technical know-how in your half, nevertheless it’s completely value it. The result’s a clearer, richer sound that surpasses 5.1 or 7.1 encompass. We now have created the diagram above to give you the right tips to make sure that your Atmos setup goes off and not using a hitch. When you dial in your recordsdata, {hardware}, apps, and settings, you must be capable to obtain a formidable Dolby Atmos sound that’s value all the trouble.

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